Critiquing the Unintended Pregnancy Framework

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2023 Mar;68(2):170-178. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.13457. Epub 2023 Jan 13.


The unintended pregnancy framework, a central tenet of sexual and reproductive health care delivery and research, has been depicted as an adverse outcome that should be prevented. There is growing criticism of the inadequacies of this framework, although little modification in public health guidelines, measurement, or clinical practice has been seen. This article critically reviews the literature on unintended pregnancy to encourage reflection on how this framework has negatively influenced practice and to inspire the advancement of more patient-centered care approaches. We begin by outlining the historical origins of the unintended pregnancy framework and review how this framework mischaracterizes patients' lived experiences, fails to account for structural inequities, contributes to stigma, and is built upon weakly supported claims of a negative impact on health outcomes. We close with a discussion of the relationship between health care provision and unintended pregnancy care and the implications and recommendations for realigning clinical practice, research, and policy goals.

Keywords: contraception/family planning; health equity; public health; reproductive justice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraception*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned*
  • Public Health
  • Sexual Behavior